The Land and Soil Experimental Research (LASER) 2013, was conducted as a joint collaboration with The World Bank (LSMS Team), the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia (CSA) and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) in an effort to improve the quality of agricultural data, particularly with respect to land area and soil fertility measurements in Ethiopia.
The aim of the LASER study was to assess the data quality associated with a number of possible measurement methodologies associated with land area, soil quality, and crop production while piloting the use of each method and assessing the feasibility of implementation in national household surveys.
Accurate and timely crop production statistics are critical to adequate government policy responses and the availability of accurate measures are pivotal to establishing credible performance evaluation systems. However, agricultural statistics are often marred by controversy over methods and overall quality, leading to inertia at best, or entirely incorrect policy actions. Major advances in recent years in technologies and practices offer an opportunity to improve on some of the indicators commonly used to measure agricultural performance.
Considerable efforts were made in the 1960s and 1970s, primarily by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to build a body of knowledge on agricultural statistics based on sound research which, over the years, has proven invaluable to researchers and practitioners in the field of agriculture. However, little new knowledge has been generated over the past few decades and much of the available methodological outputs are now obsolete in view of the changing structure of the sector, driven by global and local trends in both the agronomics of farming and the environment.
Measuring land area and soil quality was essential in properly estimating the factors that both promoted and hindered agricultural productivity. It is also critical to assess the accuracy of the key output variable, crop production, in order to validate the methodologies used to collect harvest data as well as analyze the impact of various input measurements on yield estimates. By measuring these components using a variety of methods it was possible to identify the implications of using each and move forward with the superior methods in future household surveys.
LASER was implemented across three administrative zones of the Oromia region, namely: East Wellega, West Arsi, and Borena. In total, 1018 households were interviewed, with nearly 1800 agricultural fields selected for objective land area and soil fertility measurement.